Review: Huawei TalkBand B1

Can a fitness band do more than just track activities and sleep patterns? Huawei thinks so, and is proving it with the first generation TalkBand, a fitness tracker that comes complete with a Bluetooth earpiece in the band.

Features

It seems like everyone is getting into fitness bands this year. With the whole wearable category set to explode in 2014, and more so in 2015, we totally get why, and since big names like Sony, Samsung, and LG are already here, it makes sense for Huawei to enter this also.

Starting this off is the TalkBand B1, a unique concept that is one part fitness band and another part Bluetooth headset, making it possible to answer phone calls using a Bluetooth earpiece while you’re running and losing weight.

To make this happen, Huawei has combined two gadgets into one, throwing the sensors and screen normally used in a fitness band into the body of a Bluetooth headset, and making this part dock into a special band to keep both elements on your wrist.

As such, you’ll find an accelerometer among these components in the plastic body of the B1, with a 1.4 inch OLED screen capable of showing one colour on an otherwise black screen.

Wireless connections are built into this section as well, with Near-Field Communication (NFC) for easy pairing with compatible devices, and Bluetooth to make that happen to begin with. Huawei Australia tells us Bluetooth runs at 4.1 here, a version we’ve yet to come across, while other international spec sheets suggest a more likely Bluetooth 3.0 can be found here. Provided you have a phone from the past two years, it should be compatible, and with iOS 5.0 and Android 4.0 supported on the app side of things, this makes that even more likely.

A microphone and tiny ear-piece speaker is also found in the TalkBand B1, making up the Bluetooth headset aspect of the unit, with these parts facing the inside of the flexible band that you wear.

Also in this band is a set of five gold pins, connecting the TalkBand B1 body to the USB charge port at the end of the fitness band.

One button can be found on the outside of the TalkBand body, with this button used to flick through the various menus of the TalkBand B1, while the flexible wearable band supports two buttons, with one of them acting as the cover to this same button (to push you through the menus), while the other detaches the B1 from its wrist band.

The Huawei TalkBand B1 has a battery rated for 90mAh.

Performance

It seems that everyone is getting into the fitness band game, and for Huawei’s first foray into the category, the company isn’t content in making a “me-too” product. Instead, Huawei has come up with its own idea, converging two technologies into one: the fitness band and the Bluetooth headset.

Looking at the TalkBand, it’s easy to see where the name comes from, because simply, it’s a fitness band and that aforementioned Bluetooth headset. There’s a button to release the headset from the band, and if you look into the band, there’s a crevice for the ear piece.

While it’s not the thinnest or smallest fitness band around, it’s no different in size to Samsung’s Gear Fit, and this one lets you take the screen right out of the band, so that’s something.

Fitting the TalkBand B1 to your arm is pretty easy: simply do up the two-prong clasp by pushing it into two of the holes, tightening the band to your arm.

Make sure you get the fit right before you buy, because Huawei has two of them, and depending on the size of your wrist, the TalkBand B1 may or may not be terribly useful. While this reviewer has small-ish wrists, it’s clear the size Huawei sent him is not made for medium or large-ish wrists.

There are two sizes, that said, with the smaller being made for wrist circumference of 135 to 170mm, and the large being set for 160 to 200mm, with each sporting a series of holes and a two-prong clasp to tighten it for the wrist. Essentially, choose the right one for your wrist and you should be fine, but measure ahead of time, because if you think you have small wrists and you, well, don’t, fun times.

Once that’s done, you’re good to go, so switch the TalkBand on by holding down the button, and let it start calculating and monitoring your footsteps.

With the TalkBand in operation, you’ll be able to flick through various screens, such as seeing the time first (as well as a basic look as to whether Bluetooth is connected and how much battery life you have left), how many footsteps you’ve taken with a little man running to a flag at the end, the calories burned, and the amount of time you’ve slept.

And when someone calls, you can either answer it on your phone, or press the TalkBand release button on the band to simultaneously disconnect the B1 from the strap and press the answer button, which will send the call straight to the Bluetooth headset.

It’s a neat concept, and one that works well, for the most part.

You may find that its steps aren’t exactly right, and so far, FitBit and Jawbone seem to offer the best results in this department.

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